Getting In: The Ivy League

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Nassau Hall, Princeton University. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Nassau Hall, Princeton University. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Most of the Ivies will release regular admissions news this Thursday, March 28. Brown, Columbia, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale will let nervous seniors know that day.  (Cornell, Dartmouth, and Harvard will release in early April.)  There were, needless to say, a number of high school seniors pacing in their dreams this past weekend.

Last year, these most selective universities accepted less than 10 percent, collectively, of the students who applied to them.  Of the 242,621 applications submitted to the eight schools in the Ivy League, only 23,374 were successful, with the lowest percentage for acceptances at Harvard, scraping at a low 5.9% for overall acceptances, and an even lower 4.2% for regular decision acceptances.  If only six out of a hundred kids get in, I sure hope those applicants have a favored runner-up.

Each of these schools boasts impressive diversity:  Brown admitted students from all 50 states and 80 foreign countries; at Columbia, 15 percent of those admitted received Pell Grants, and 15 percent were the first generation to attend college; at Cornell, kids from all 50 states and 68 countries were admitted; Dartmouth accepted 9.3 percent international students, and 46.2 percent students of color; Harvard’s freshman class was comprised of 10 percent African American students, 11 percent Hispanic, 12 percent Native American, an increase in Asian American and Native Hawaiians, and 10 percent international students; Penn, an impressive 18.6 percent Asian American/Pacific Islander; Princeton, kids from all 50 states, 73 countries, with 58 percent having attended public high schools and 12.5 percent attending as first generation to go to college; Yale, 18 percent international, representing 118 countries (with those countries most represented including China, Canada, South Korea, India, and the UK).  What does this mean?  The smartest kids from all over the world are vying for a spot in the freshman class at colleges in the Ivy League.

The Ivies are all, without a doubt, excellent institutions of higher learning.  But, in some national university rankings, other colleges and universities outstrip the Ivies in terms of test scores, GPAs, range of undergraduate programming, freshman retention and graduation rates.  (Take MIT, Stanford and Johns Hopkins, to name just a few.)  So, what is the deal with the Ivies?  Why, if these other schools are identified as just as strong or stronger, do our kids keep flocking to the Ivies year-after-year in record breaking numbers?  Is it just exceptional branding?  Does reputation outlast actual measure?

I hope the kids who get their big news Thursday hear what they want, but based on the statistics we know that will be the exception, not the rule.  So, to those kids I say a few things:  1) You are in good company in the rejected pool – nine out of ten of the qualified applicants didn’t get in either. 2) You will get into another great college if you have the grades and test scores to be a legitimate applicant to the Ivies; and 3) Take a deep breath: College is only  four years of your future, not the entirety of it.  You are smart.  Work hard, and you will succeed, even if you don’t go to one of the eight.

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  1. In addition, many (if not most) of those upper-excel on applicants are bound for grad school or professional training (med school or law). In that case, no one cares where you did your undergrad; the recruiters will look at your law school or PhD mentor. Unknown State before that? Who cares?

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